Monday, December 31, 2012


Seems like the same old story, digging, trucking and muck.  
But each day holds newchallenges.  Current dredge spoil 
totals are now slightly over the half-way mark
objective in terms of volume of spoils, and

not quite half-way in bottom area to be dug.
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island

-  Last Day, 2012  -

By far the largest dredging project yet undertaken by the Ferry Line is the deepening of waters adjacent to the Island Potato Dock.  In the warmer weather of any other season, a successful project conclusion would be assumed as only a matter of time and money.  But with winter coming on, short daylight hours, temperatures sure to drop below the pleasant upper 20s of the past weeks, and equipment and people increasingly under strain, achievement of our goal is still a ways off.

"No, not another blog on dredging," was a comment I received, directed toward the series of reports with similar themes of late.

I can't help myself!  I find the combination of big equipment, the project scale and challenges too intriguing to pass up.  And, that doesn't begin to address the alternatives if the Ferry Line and the Island can't have one, safe ferry landing site come real winter.  Not succeeding is just something none of us can begin to contemplate.  So... its dig and haul, dig and haul, until sufficient material is removed.

"Why is this being done so late in the season?" is one question we've been asked.

The project as it stands on this last day of the year is a culmination of action begun months ago.  First, as water levels were monitored, we hoped the drop would not lead to extremes requiring immediate dredeging.  The cost of such activities was huge enough that we waited until we were sure certain there were no other options besides expenditure for dredging.

The paperwork - the filing of permit applications for state and local approvals that allow a project like this legally go forward began in early October.  That was when falling lake levels sounded serious alarms for the consequences of the coming winter's navigation.  We were fortunate in the permitting process to have had the prompt and full cooperation of regional WDNR administrative and Door County Zoning personnel,  We believe they helped to speed the permitting for this project more than would typically have been the case.  Our permits were received in mid-December, and at that time we had already set a tentative start date for digging.

There was also the verbal lining-up of a marine contractor.  Although we had Mike Kahr on the way, after he completed work at another site in Fish Creek, the scope of this project and the slippage of time brought further concern.  That led to our asking Roen by the middle of December to consider our job once their work in Egg Harbor was completed.  This they agreed to do.   We were fortunate to have the understanding and support from both Roen and Kahr.  Everyone understood that this dredging needed to be done ASAP.   As it happened, we are relying on the equipment of each marine contractor.

Critical in this project, too, is the willingness of Island men who own and drive dump trucks.  They've been willing to operate their trucks, loaded ten yards at a time, for five or six round trips - about 3.5 hours - per material barge load.  They appear at the Potato Dock after an advance phone call from Rich Ellefson.  Rich then works either on shore coordinating the trucking, or he monitors dredging progress and operates a skidster to assist cleaning out corners on the material barge.

Without the help of Pete Nehlsen, Dave Hanlin, David Small, Mike Jorgenson, Tim Ervin, Tom Jordan, Drew Rainsford and Jon Mann, plus one of Mike Kahr's dump trucks driven by Joel Gunnlaugsson (or myself, one day), and Hoyt Purinton supervising the pit dumping activities, the dredged material would soon stockpile on the barge and the entire project would be slowed.  Thanks also to Julian Hagen for consenting to receive spoils at his gravel pit.  Because the Hagen site is close, a truck can make the round trip in 30 minutes or less, when all goes smoothly.

Dave Hanlin, Rich Ellefson, Con McDonald
lent a hand in pulling slack on the hoist cable.

Rigging the cable for the clamshell used for offloading
stopped production Saturday evening for about 30 minutes.
Rich Ellefson, Dave Hanlin and others assisted Roen crew in
refastening the cable.

Tom Jordan drove his dump truck for every off-load, and he's also operated the Kahr excavator.  Saturday, I observed Tom as he climbed down from the excavator following a continuous, five-hour shift of digging.  (The excavator didn't have heat in the cab.)  Cold and stiff-legged, he crossed the barge deck to get behind the wheel of his truck.  Later that evening, while the bucket cable was undergoing repairs,  he laughed and joshed with other drivers, surprisingly fresh and enthusiastic.

View from behind the wheel of a Mack.  I kidded Pete Nehlsen about
"catching up with me," when actually he'd lapped
me earlier on the pit turn-around.   Good drivers can haul, dump, re-do
tailgate "sludge locks" and be positioned for
another load in less than 30 minutes.  It's no space shuttle cabin, with
half-a-dozen buttons and as many procedures for dumping, but I 

barely kept up.   A clutch failure sidelined my truck later, that evening.
Now, with a two-day holiday break coming, Roen's lead man Don Sarter indicated he'll return after New Year's with enough men for two shifts to enable round-the-clock digging.  The Roen crew is just as concerned about finishing the job for the Island as they are to complete their season and get their equipment safely back to homeport in Sturgeon Bay.

So, thanks for indulging me in yet one more report on dredging.  It's critical to the well-being of Washington Island to have this work done.  We could say that the stakes have never been higher.  For that, we're thankful for the willing participation of many hands during the recent days.
  -  Dick Purinton


Anonymous said...

Wow, I like your blogs about the dredging!!!!


Anonymous said...

In response the comment, "not another blog on dredging", don't take it personally. The reader/comment maker must not have any ties to the island, nor any interest in our transportation life-line and lacks compassion for small community survival. The Potato Dock dredging project plays a huge role in how Island residents will continue to live and thrive throughout the winter (ice season) months this year and possibly winters to follow. I'm grateful for all mentioned in the blog who work through the holidays, in the cold on such a timeline. And I say bring on more blogs on the dredging project like this one! It's the most important thing happening up here.

Valerie Fons said...

Thank you Washington Island Ferry Line for keeping the sea lanes open to Washington Island residents and visitors. The care with which you receive and transport each and every one of us is ministry. Reporting on ferry line challenges and response is consistent with the integrity of what we know the WIF to be. Community cooperation with effort and Island muscle machines is inspirational. My grandmother, Thelma Fons told me that her father Lawrence Klingenberg drove horse and wagon onto the ice and positioned planks over open water to retrieve her when the ferry came as close to shore as winter ice allowed. Dredge on and proclaim the story! Valerie Fons

Anonymous said...

Your lack of planning and scheduling does not give you the right to disturb the quiet of our homes with trucking at ridiculous hours of the day. I do not thank you for the disturbance you are causing to the lives of Islanders who live on your truck route. This dredging could have been completed during a time in the year that doesn't need round the clock operations to combat impending ice.

Anonymous said...


Are there plans to dredge the Detroit Harbor channel in the near future? Is the fact that dredging is now concentrated around the potato dock due to the fact that dredging in the channel is not yet permitted, is too extensive this late in the season, or is limited by the makeup of the bottom material (rock vs sediment).

Bill Tobey said...

Dick, thank you a bunch for your continued coverage of this activity that is absolutely essential for the island community's well-being.

trot2island said...

"Your lack of planning and scheduling does not give you the right to disturb the quiet of our homes with trucking at ridiculous hours of the day."

Did you read the blog? You may want to delve a little deeper than merely the comments section and actually give the article a thorough read.

And, with a chuckle, I envy the quiet of your home. I too, live along the hauling route, but have yet to be disturbed by it. So, thanks for reminding me how blessed I am to have a home filled with "noise".